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In public, Tory MPs are backing rebels. But in private, they're voting for loyalists.

By Paul Goodman
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Buckland RobertThat over 100 Conservative MPs voted for John Baron's amendment yesterday evening suggests that they agreed with it - that's common sense, after all, isn't it?  But matters are rarely that simple in the House of Commons.

A picture is beginning to emerge of Tory MPs who disagreed with the motion but still backed it.  Why?  Because they didn't want to explain to their Associations and constituents that in their view David Cameron's new EU referendum bill pledge rendered the amendment unnecessary.

James Kirkup writes this morning about the power of local Associations and the shrinking of the Conservative member base.  He is correct (as usual).  But fear of local voters counted as much yesterday evening as fear of local activists - at least for MPs in marginal seats,

Some of them are furious with Baron for pushing his amendment to the vote, and claim to have told him so.  It can be argued that this reflects badly on them, rather than Baron - that if they disagreed with his amendment, they shouldn't have voted for it.

This week's '22 Committee elections also suggest that while their votes were with Baron, their hearts were elsewhere.  Robert Buckland is an outspoken supporter of Britain's E.U membership - and thus a rarity among the 2010 intake of Conservative MPs.

At roughly the same time as yesterday evening's vote, it was announced that he has been re-elected as a secretary of the 1922 Committee's executive committee.  In public, Tory MPs may be backing the rebels, but in private they are supporting the loyalists.


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